PRINCE William says seeing people die when he was an air ambulance pilot left him traumatised for “weeks”.
The Duke of Sussex spoke candidly about his experiences in a conversation with frontline workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
The royal, who worked with paramedics to provide emergency medical treatment at the East Anglian Air Ambulance, admitted his work regularly affected his “family life” – and said he “really worries” about the psychological toll of the pandemic on health staff.
He spoke out in a video call on Wednesday alongside the Duchess of Cambridge, 39, to highlight the difficulties faced by medics as the nation battles a brutal surge in Covid hospitalisations.
The Duke said: “Some of it I noticed from my previous spell flying with the air ambulance with the team.
“When you see so much death and so much bereavement it does impact how you see the world. It is very interesting what you said about being able to see things in a different light.
“I think you said about thinking everyone around you is going to die, that is what really worries me about the front line staff at the moment.
“That you are so under the cosh at the moment and so pressurised and you’re seeing such high levels of sadness, trauma, death, that it impacts your own life and your own family life because it is always there.”
He added: “You’re so drawn into it, which everyone is, it is only natural that would happen.
“But that’s what I think a lot of the public don’t understand, that when you’re surrounded by that level of intense trauma and sadness and bereavement.
“It really does, it stays with you, at home it stays with you for weeks on end, doesn’t it, and you see the world in a much more, slightly depressed, darker, blacker place.”
William, 38, and Kate, 39, both stressed it was vital that frontline personnel reached out for support at this critical time and the stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health issues must end.
Prince William continued: “This is an unprecedented time we are all facing. I think that really needs to be nailed home right now is that this is like nothing before that anyone has ever seen, particularly this third wave we are going through right now.
“People need to understand how you are normal human beings doing a brilliant job in a very, very difficult time and I hope this service gives people the outlet that they need.”
Phil Spencer, the wellbeing Inspector of Cleveland Police, also told the Duke and Duchess of the difficulties of enforcing lockdown restrictions.
Mr Spencer warned said officers were “seen as the villains sometimes – again can’t do right for doing wrong – having to put the fines out and lay down the law”.
He added: “Perhaps further down the line when all this is gone we’re going to have some broken police officers and emergency services staff, because we’re too busy focusing on protecting the most vulnerable.”
The Duke responded: “People need to understand how you are normal people doing a brilliant job in a very difficult time.
“You are all so busy caring for everyone else that you won’t take time to care for yourself.”
The duke and duchess’ royal foundation has been providing financial support for Just B through its Covid-19 Response Fund.
Just B provides confidential and free-to-access bereavement and wellbeing support for NHS staff, social care workers, carers and all emergency services personnel who may be experiencing personal bereavement, anxiety, trauma or the impact of dealing with large numbers of deaths in their working lives.